Chindhu Salim from India and his family members

James, of the US, and Talya, of Mexico, live and work in Hong Kong. They took a tour to Hanoi in late April. The couple said on the first day in Hanoi, they were surprised when seeing the street of their hotel, everything was quiet and the lights were turned off at 10pm.

“It was a contrast to Hong Kong, where nightlife is bustling. On holiday, we can participate in entertainment activities until 2-3am, or even through nights,” Talya said. 

“My friends warned me before we came to Vietnam that we needed to learn to go to bed early if we wanted to go to Hanoi,” she said.

The hotel’s workers suggested the next day that the couple go to Ta Hien street, a ‘sleepless street’. In Hanoi, Ta Hien is called ‘Pho Tay’ or ‘westerner street’, where foreign backpackers and other travelers go to enjoy street dishes and drinks.

James and Talya went to Ta Hien on the evening of April 30, the first day of the four-day holiday this year.

The street was crowded at 7.30pm with all the eateries full of customers and the atmosphere was great, which brought similar feelings like the streets at night in Hong Kong. 

“The food was quite good, but entertainment activities were poor and the space was narrow,” they commented.

“It seemed that only Ta Hien stayed sleepless. Meanwhile, other streets, including the ones very near to Ta Hien, became quiet after midnight. We could not find any tours allowing us to experience the local landscapes at night,” Talya said.

Kathy, 29, from the UK, came to Hanoi in 2019. As the capital city left a good impression on her, after Covid-19, in early 2023, she decided to come back to Hanoi for one week. Before departure, she tried to seek information about nighttime entertainment activities. But she felt a bit disappointed.

“I just found some little information about nighttime tours, such as walking around Hoan Kiem Lake and Old Quarter, enjoying food and drinking coffee on Ta Hien street,” Kathy said.

On the fourth day in Hanoi, she decided to return to the hotel at 10pm, because she couldn’t find more entertainment.

On the next few days in Hanoi, Kathy visited Hoa Lo Prison Relic and watched a water puppetry show. However, all the events finished before 10pm.

“After 10 pm, Hanoi seemed to turn into another city, especially on ordinary days. Streets were quiet and peaceful,” she said. “Enjoying the peaceful atmosphere is really an interesting experience, but it is a bit boring for young people like me."

Chindhu Salim of India, and his wife and three children, who took a 6-day tour to Vietnam, also commented that Hanoians seem to go to bed early and he hopes Hanoi will have more interesting activities at night, and more restaurants and nightclubs.

Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of AZA Travel, commented that it is easy to schedule nighttime tours for Vietnamese when traveling to Thailand, China and South Korea, but it is difficult to design tours to help foreign travelers to explore Hanoi at night.

“Travelers to Thailand, China and South Korea spend 30 percent of their total spending on daytime and 70 percent on nighttime activities and services, such as food, entertainment and massage. 

But it is different in Hanoi. There are few attractive services for travelers to spend money on.

According to Dat, there is a water puppetry program which is very attractive to European travelers, but it doesn’t attract many Asian travelers. 

Dat was impressed by the art program ‘Tinh hoa Bac Bo’ (the elite of the northern region). He watched it several times and received good feedback from many tourists. 

However, according to Dat, the show is organized in the suburbs, 30 kilometers far from the center, which makes it difficult for travelers.

So far, the most common tours AZA Travel and other companies design for foreign tourists in Hanoi are the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, Long Bien Bridge, and Quang Ba Flower Market.

“The most crowded and bustling street in Hanoi is Ta Hien, but it is too small,” he said.

Ngoc Ha